17 Aug 2015

2800 state houses repaired since critical report

8:04 am on 17 August 2015

The Labour Party says it is a shame it has taken the death of a child to make the Government realise that its state housing stock needs to be better maintained.

Housing New Zealand has repaired more than 2800 state homes since a critical coroner's report that a cold damp house may have been a factor in a South Auckland toddler's death.

State housing in Upper Hutt.

Housing New Zealand has repaired more than 2800 state homes since a critical coroner's report. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The agency began an urgent check of its stock after the coroners' findings into the death of two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne was published in June.

It said all work requests were immediately reviewed and priority was given to homes affected by cold and damp.

Repairs included upgrading insulation and installing ventilation, heaters and thermal curtains.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said Housing New Zealand had always had a rigorous maintenance programme, but how the agency reacted to urgent cases clearly had to be looked at.

National MP, Paula Bennett.

Paula Bennett Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

She said it would not be clear for about three months how much the urgent maintenance would cost, but she had made it clear that money should not be the issue.

Mrs Bennett said the agency had also sped up its response to urgent maintenance requests.

"We've prioritised those into a maintenance action team and then we contract out of course most repairs and things anyway so they just ensured that it's happening quicker, they've been far more responsive I think than they have been in the past when it's come to urgent repairs.

"I think we've learnt a lesson and I just think that the improvements needed to happen and they've done it."

Labour Deputy Leader, Annette King.

Labour Deputy Leader, Annette King. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But Labour's acting leader Annette King said for almost seven years the Government had denied there was a problem with the state of social housing.

"I can remember when I was the housing spokesperson, back in 2011, raising issues of the dreadful state of apartments and houses [run by] Housing New Zealand and being told by [then Housing Minister] Nick Smith that there wasn't a problem.

"So it's taken them a long time to recognise that they needed to do something about it, and the sad thing is that it's taken deaths for them to sit up and take notice."

Follow Chris Bramwell on Twitter @chrisbramwell

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